15 Nov 2009

Mini Reviews 15/11/2009

While we may not always have the time to review all the comics we get every week, we do try and a snapshot of the latest releases, mixing the good with the not so good.

This week also sees the continuation of Matt C's Byrne FF project.

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Steve Dillon
Marvel/MAX $3.99

Matt C: The previous Punisher title on the MAX imprint didn’t really flourish following Garth Ennis’ departure, but Marvel obviously felt the concept was strong enough to relaunch. I had high hopes for this based on Aaron’s work elsewhere (particularly Scalped) and while it does deliver the goods on the script front, there is major problem for me that kind of overshadows everything else. That problem? Steve Dillon. Don’t get me wrong, the guy’s art is amazing – unique, instantly recognisable and near flawless – but his rendition of Frank Castle is so tied to Ennis’ blackly comical take on the character (before he went hardcore for MAX) that it was impossible not to be constantly reminded of that run on every single page. I would imagine Aaron’s approach is intended to be tonally different from Ennis’s inspired mayhem but it’s hard to differentiate them at this point. This is no fault of any of the creators, and the introduction of the Kingpin into the MAX universe is handled very well, but I’m on the fence whether to continue with this in the monthly format or wait for the trade. The $3.99 price point could be the deciding factor. 7/10

Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Garrie Gastonny
Avatar $3.99

Matt C: I enjoyed Ellis’ Black Summer but then made the partly-financial-based decision to skip No Hero, a mistake on my part by all accounts, and not one I intend to repeat with Supergod. It’s the final series in a loose trilogy that’s tackled the concept of superpowered individuals from different angles, and here we see science being utilized to create living gods on Earth (with all the expected consequences that entails). Ellis is clearly one of the smartest men writing comics, and this issue is packed with fantastic and fascinating ideas. It does seem to skirt quite closely to what J. Michael Straczynski was doing in Supreme Power towards the end, but I imagine this is purely coincidental; I don’t see Ellis as someone who plagiarises his contemporaries, he’s too in front of the pack for that! Gastonny conjures up some powerful visuals and the image of the being known as Morrigan Lugus was particularly unnerving (fungus growing out of people just freaks me out!). All in all, a really strong start. I now need to go out and pick up the collected edition of No Hero! 8/10

Stewart R: When I previously heard comic readers speak of Warren Ellis’ ‘big idea’ style of comic writing I didn’t quite know what to think. Then, having picked up Ignition City, Aetheric Mechanics as well as borrowing the entire run of Planetary, I finally saw what they had been talking about. With Supergod Ellis picks up the idea of man shaping gods in our own vision and flings it straight at the reader with a hefty dose of apocalypse and international destruction. The idea of various nations and Super Powers using their technological and biological knowledge to craft and create beings to be worshipped and to lead them down the righteous path is captivating; Ellis moulds his version of the 20th Century to deliver it with a slight sense of the believable. Gastonny’s artwork suits the grand scale of the Ellis’ premise incredibly well, delivering culturally recognisable landscapes mired in destruction of biblical proportions. A very good first issue - I particularly like the fact that we’ve already seen where the story will eventually lead us but the journey to that point will be the fun part. 8/10

S.W.O.R.D #1
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art: Steven Sanders & Craig Yeung
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Jeez, I’ve had to get the judgement scales out for this one, there’s so much good and bad. Bad first. Beast should never be portrayed or drawn like he is here. There’s 45 years worth of character that’s been put into the blue fur-ball but his comical, love-sick, sidekick antics here pretty much just served to wind me up – it’s that much of a misstep. The same goes for Lockheed who was portrayed, rather decently I thought, in the recent Pet Avengers title as a saddened, lost soul, but here he’s just pissed off little dragon time with any excuse to bring out the fire breath. The good… more Agent Brand can only be a good thing and her ‘what could possibly happen next’ approach to her duties makes her instantly likeable. There’s also a very welcome cameo from a certain intergalactic bounty hunter who harks back to the Marvel UK days which may at least prompt me to pick up the next issue to see what part he plays. The art is a crisp and clean affair but nothing to blow your socks off. There’s promise but I’d like to see the $2.99 price tag turn up from next issue onwards. 6/10

Writer: Grant Morrison
Art: Philip Tan & Jonathan Glapion
DC $2.99

Stewart R: Oh, what has gone wrong here?? The art from page to page goes through some really strange changes, I’m guessing as Tan and Glapion exchange inking duties with each other in some bizarre tag-team frenzy. It really does distract from what would have been an otherwise enjoyable clash between the Red Hood, Scarlett, The Pink Flamingo and the new Dynamic Duo. I’m also hoping that this isn’t the last that we’ll see of Scarlett as I found her to be a very interesting part of these last two arcs and I think that there’s plenty more there to expand on should Morrison feel the urge. Compared to the Professor Pyg arc the Revenge Of The Red Hood had potential that just wasn’t realised thanks mostly to some erratic pencil and ink work, and the strange cliffhanger has me wondering if all hell is about to break loose in this title. 6/10

Matt C: The three-issue story arc. It’s one of the things that initially put me off Morrison’s run on Batman. A great idea built up over two issues and then squandered with a rushed and unsatisfying (and often confusing) conclusion. It's starting to look like the trend is going to continue in this new title: there was so much more that could’ve been done with the new Dynamic Duo’s first confrontation with Jason Todd’s Red Robin plus sidekick, but rather than expand on some interesting themes, Morrision brings in a ridiculously named, one-dimensional villain (Pink Flamingo!) for a punch-up. Tan’s art is decent – atmospheric and energetic – but through no fault of his own he’s still stuck in the shadow of Frank Quitely. Jason venting at Dick towards the end is a powerful moment, and the Lazurus Pit hook does make me want to come back for more, but further disappointment in the narrative structuring may see me leaving this title on the shelves. 6/10

Matt T: Perhaps the phrase 'oh how the mighty have fallen' would be a bit strong, but 'oh how the mighty have gone a bit rubbish all of a sudden' is probably about accurate. The art in the issue has really taken a dive for some reason, looking half finished and a million miles from the hyper-detailed and superbly inventive work Tan has put in before. The conclusion isn't exactly unexpected either, but as an introduction for the fledgling caped duo it's been decent enough, if a little to rapidly wrapped up. Hopefully Morrison will build a more substantial plotline after this, and Cameron Stewart coming on board for a couple of issues means Tan might have a bit more time to turn out top notch work rather than the substandard display here. 7/10

Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Emma Rios
Mavrel $3.99

Stewart R: Marvel never seems too keen on making permanent changes to its properties and with Brother Voodoo now holding claim to the title of Sorcerer Supreme and getting all mystical in his own comic to boot (which is worth picking up by the way!) the big question is what will happen to Stephen Strange? I’m guessing he’ll be in possession of the Eye of Agamotto before the end of next year and that guess may be helped by the appearance of this 4-part mini. Here Stephen is tackling Tul’luth’s demonic hold over a baseball team exhibiting the skills and limited powers he still possesses, and it’s entertaining enough fare. The art from Emma Rios is certainly clean and colourful – something that I always think helps with the portrayal of bonkers magical occurrences - but I’m no great fan of the Manga style in modern Marvel comics. The premise seems flimsy to begin with but Waid is an old hand at this comic writing game and he steers it towards a satisfactory conclusion. These $3.99 mini series have been flying thick and fast from Marvel lately and I’m not 100% convinced that this one merits the damage to my wallet. 6/10

Matt C: Having ignored all the Bendis New Avengers stuff best I could, Brian K Vaughan’s Blood Oath miniseries was the last time I fully connected with Dr Stephen Strange, and what an awesome read that was. I was hoping Mark Waid was the man to bring the magic (sorry!) back to Strange’s world, but although this debut issue is certainly competent (you’d expect no less from Waid) it’s simply not engaging enough to make we want to go out and get the next issue. Rios’ manga-influenced art marks her out as one to watch, and Waid paces the story well, but in the end it’s all rather forgettable, and not really worth $3.99. 5/10

Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Art: Patrick Gleason, Rebecca Buchman & Tom Nguyen
DC $2.99

Stewart R: I know a lot of people out there will have been getting Blackest Night and Green Lantern over the past few months but I have to say to you here and now people, if you haven’t been picking this up as well I highly recommend seeking it out in back issue form as it really has added a huge part to my Blackest Night enjoyment. Tomasi shares the Corps love around giving Isamot Kol and Vath Sarn some decent exposure as they battle the Black Lantern Corphans with the Indigo Tribesman, Munk, and then brings the focus sharply around as the Black Lantern power levels reach 100% and their mission changes. Gleason’s handle on the ensuing carnage is masterful and once again I’ll show my fondness for colourists by saying that Randy Mayor and Gabe Eltaeb really bring their A-game to this comic. There’s some delightfully polished colour use that really enhances the Lantern spectrum displayed within the pages of what is fast becoming a favourite comic of mine. 8/10

Writer: Joe Kelly
Art: Eric Canete
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: From the terrific Skottie Young cover you know that it's going to be a relatively bonkers ASM this week and Joe Kelly is certainly the right Spidey writer to keep things on the rails, even if it is a Temple Of Doom mine-cart ride of a comic. Leading into the upcoming Gauntlet arc, the Merc with a Mouth is hired by Kraven the Hunter’s revenge-seeking missus to take on the Webbed Wonder for a moderate fee. Cue the 4th wall breaking, monologue-filled, collateral damage dance that we would expect to receive. Eric Canete is a very welcome addition on artistic duties as he really does know how to capture ‘the everyday’ for Peter Parker’s down-on-his luck segments, and when the dynamic dial needs to be turned up to 11 he whips out the superb angles and frenetic action. To be honest I’m hoping Marvel do the sensible thing and sign him up for another couple of issues if he’s delivering to this standard. It’s terrifically entertaining and a refreshing break from the clone nonsense that we were subjected to over the past month. My only complaint would be the lack of Deadpool’s inner voices but in a comic so crammed full of goodness I’ll happily brush that one under the carpet with a smile. 8/10

Writer: Garth Ennis
Art: Oscar Jimenez
Avatar $3.99

Matt C: I warmed to Jimenez rendering of these characters a lot more this time around, though I have to say I’m always going to prefer Jacen Brurrow’s version of Jimmy the Rabbit. As a whole, this is certainly a step up from the rather lacklustre one-shot The Last Enemy, but I’ve got a sneaking feeling that the original miniseries was one of those storylines that just didn’t require a sequel; everything that needed to be said was said the first time round, and anything extra is just dilution. They’re still an interesting bunch of characters to spend some time with, but unless Ennis has some outstanding tricks up his sleeve in the next issue or so, you can mark this one as ‘non essential’. 7/10

Writer: Dan Jurgens
Art: Dan Jurgens, Mike Norton & Norm Rapmund
DC $3.99

Matt T: I've been a huge fan of Booster's more light-hearted adventures, and am always slightly apprehensive when the man in Gold starts tackling the heavier stuff. Now that Blackest Night has suddenly crossed over into the realms of Booster's microcosm of fixing time-based anomalies there was only one intelligent outcome: Ted Kord's resurrection. Jurgens does handle the angst well, and has given Booster far more dimensions than most would afford him, but I'm concerned about this creative team getting too involved in this big crossover. If it’s just a few harmless issues of distraction then I'll be at least able to stomach it, but hopefully it won't be at the cost of the main story Jurgens has been building up for the past few months. 8/10

Writer: Gregg Hurwitz
Art: Jerome Opena
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: Since the relaunch of the Moon Knight book, it’s gone back to it's gritty, hyper-violent roots, with the artist formerly known as Marc Spector fighting his more bloody nature to bring criminals to justice, rather than just beating the snot out of them. The resurrection of Bushwacker happens far too conveniently for my liking, as the Hood seems to suddenly gain abilities hitherto unmentioned (to the best of my knowledge) and use them purely to get at a vigilante he could crush with very little effort. Still, with the main point of this oversight coming to fruition it can only mean good things for the future, as the odds are stacking against 'ol Moony and a big throwdown will soon be in the offing. 7/10

Writer: Daniel Way
Art: Paco Medina and Juan Vlasco
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Yes, this is still fun to read, and yes, Paco Medina is still pounding out great issue after great issue, but there’s just the feeling in the back of my head that this little story arc has not been up to the high standards seen previously. I’ve a feeling that that’s due to the involvement of the X-Men: Way is having to play along with the X-World that Matt Fraction has just lovingly crafted and it’s making it feel just a little bit less-like a Deadpool title and more of an X-Men book. That said, I’m certainly not complaining about the inclusion of Domino here as she’s a good foil/lust-interest for Wade and the ‘bit with the chicken’ is a guaranteed chuckle for many. 7/10

Writer: John Byrne
Art: John Byrne & Jerry Ordway
Marvel $0.65

Matt C: A provocative cover, and once you turn the page you realise the contents are pretty edgy for a mainstream Marvel comic in the mid-Eighties. A tsumani of hatred washes over the citizens New York City with every bigoted belief being amplified to the point of chaos – racism, religious intolerance, mutantphobia….. all these bubble to the surface with the FF caught in the middle. I originally read this tale when it was reprinted in its entirety in an issue of the UK version of Secret Wars II, a series which collected the original sequel mini along with the majority of the tie-ins and several related storylines (such as this one) in a semi-chronological order for British readers. There are some potent concepts being tossed around in this issue, far more sophisticated than the usual sci-fi adventuring – Byrne’s at the top of his game here, and it’s just as powerful re-reading it now as it was back then. Exceptional. 10/10

1 comment:

Tom P said...

Supergod did rock, Ellis your a master!I must recommend Batman/Doc Savage its is $4.99 on the downside but its stuffed full of great stuff. The story was good for a team up issue and Azzarello's take on Batman is refreshing with a more leap before looking take on Bruce. I would very much like to read more Savage stuff now, Plus the art was very nice indeed. Im interested in First-Wave now, the note from Azzarello at the end of the issue hooked me in. "Tommy guns & jet planes, dirigibles & Ferraris, computers & walkie-talkies. Art Deco skyscrapers overlook shantytowns. Men are bruised and women are painted and doing a lot of the bruising. Cities are urban jungles - and there are also uncharted mysterious countries with their own jungles as well. It's a world where you're guilty before being proven innocent - something that rarely happens. Little people make big mistakes ans suffer the consequences.Life is cheap and everyone has their price. Where part of the thrill of being rich is watching the poor suffer.My kind of place. -B" Sign me up please.